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Remembered Today:

The Official History...


Chris Boonzaier
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Well, its taken me months to get it typed out, loose it, find it, loose it again... and now finally get it online.

I hope this is of use to the other three people in the world who have an interest in the campaign :-)

http://www.trenchfighter.com/41992/home.html

The maps are really good, please take a look and put comments/Questions (if any) here...

Oh for a discussion about GSWA ....... wistful sigh....

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I have just recorded an account of some action there that appeared in the Holmfirth Express - October 16th 1915. I can use your site to clear up the spellings of some place names and get a little background, so it will be useful to me.

A Holmfirth man who had served with the Yorkshire Hussars during the Boar War and then decided to stay in South Africa, wrote to the Holmfirth Express describing his activities during South Africa’s invasion of German South West Africa. The man, who was identified only by his initials, wrote:

“It may possibly interest some of your readers to hear how the war is progressing in this part of the world. My regiment, the Natal Light Horse, and the Imperial Light Horse, formed the 9th Brigade, under General McKenzie. We left Garub (about 50 miles from Luderizbucht) on April 19th. Being a flying column we took no waggons, and only two water carts. We reached Austria, where the brave, reckless De Million was killed. A general favourite, and formerly a bitter opponent of the British. The Germans evacuated this almost impregnable place, leaving it strewn with land mines, and they also poisoned every well and every source from where water could be obtained. This was also the starting place for their famous Taube, with which they had preciously annoyed us by dropping bombs on us nearly every day. Then, on for 60 miles, through shifting sand and desolation, with not a blade of grass, or one drop of water. The heat, combined with the flying sand, was terrible. I can’t describe it. Then we struck the dry bed of a small river, and got good water by digging for it. Men were scratching with cups, bayonets, stone, etc. Horses, poor beggars, Pawing and screaming half mad to get at the water they could not get at without assistance. Then on to Bethanic, a pretty town with a running stream of water. The Germans here put up a brief fight, but what a hope! We must have presented a fine sight, I suppose, galloping in extended order, with a two mile front (semi-circular), and our object - water. Pell mell, through streets, gardens, anything, a bee line to the river. From here, fighting continually until we reached Berseba, at one o’clock at night, on the 25th. Pervious to this, we had never off saddled longer than six hours at a stretch, and that about mid-day. As a special favour, reveille was to sound at 7:30 next morning, but we were awakened by a very different reveille at 4 o’clock instead. The Germans, strengthened by the garrison driven north from Keetmanshoop, attacked us from the south and east simultaneously. In three minutes from the first shot being fired, B Squadron (we were in the advance force) were mounted and galloping out with stripped saddles. Eventually we got them on the run, captured 60 prisoners and 18 waggons, loaded mostly (to our disgust) with clothing, rifles and equipment. That night we pressed on, minus overcoats, blankets, food and water bottles. It was bitterly cold, but we had commandeered some whole mealies for our horses, and they had a good feed. Too good, in fact, as some of them rapidly developed colic, and had to be shot, or left. The next day and the following day passed in a sort of dream. We rode, skirmished, and pressed on. Men fell out, utterly done up, and were left. We just had to reach Gibeon siding 100 miles north-east of Keetmanshoop, to cut of the German retreat. Our only food was mutton; no salt, coffee, biscuits, or anything else. Of sheep there were thousands, and we killed as we required. No salt and all mutton naturally produced dysentery. And when we struck the enemy, the 9th Brigade, 1,00 strong at Garub, could not put 500 into the firing line, and into what was (I think) the biggest scrap up to date in German South West Africa. At midnight, on the 28th, we blew up the line and cut off their retreat. They at once attacked us with five heavy guns, maxims, fire-lights (uncanny things) and rifle fire. We had no guns, [Artillery] or even maxims, and slowly they drove us back yard by yard for a mile or so. So close were we that actual bayonet fighting took place. Never were men more glad that we when daylight broke and our main force came up in their rear, and the scrap was virtually won. Out of 267 men in the Natal Light Horse fighting line, we lost 68 killed and wounded, and 70 prisoners. These we quickly recaptured in the morning. Reinforced as we were, it was over at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. We got nearly 400 prisoners, and besides they had a large number killed and wounded. We took in 60 to hospital, and the road to Windhock was open. Myself and my half section, our two captured German horses (ours were done early in the morning) flopped down in the veldt where we were. The next thing I remember was being roused at 10 next morning by the Imperial Light Horse Chaplain. Dazed and muddled, S. jumped up and ordered him to hands up, or he would shoot, as he swore he was a German. This little matter rectified, we at once apologised. We are resting here, completely done up, only 100 miles from Windhock, and we came from the south. With rations and a fresh horse we could get there by the 6th. No food here for us; the hospital requires it all. Sample of prices prevailing:- Cigarettes, 1/- each; Tobacco, 3/- for two oz.; coffee, 6d per cup; sugar, 5/- per lb.; salt, none; mealie meal, 2/- per pint. Well, I think this will be quite sufficient to bore your readers, that is (and it is very doubtful) if you consider it of sufficient interest.” H. B. M.

Tony.

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Hi Tony,

good to know... forums are great, websites without feedback can be a thankless task.

Maybe one of the maps may be of use, if you need I can give you a better scan of any of them.

All the best

Chris

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. . . Austria, where the brave, reckless De Million was killed. A general favourite, and formerly a bitter opponent of the British. . . .

Tony.

Thanks to Chris Boonzaier for the info and to Tony Lund for the supplementary info.

My grandfather served in the "Rand Intelligence Corps" and knew de Meillon.

From the CWGC

DE MEILLON, COPERNICUS KEPLER Captain 22/02/1915 35 5th Mounted Rifles (Imperial Light Horse) South African 132. AUS MILITARY CEMETERY

L'Ange has a delightful story in "Urgent Imperial Service" where he describes how de Meillon was in charge of the small landing party that had "cautiously entered Luderitzbucht [Now Luderitz, Namibia], rifles at the ready, on the night of September 18 [1914]. But the town was curiously deserted".

de Meillon "found a pot of hot coffee on the dining room table and in a bedroom still warm from a recently departed occupant. He sat down and drank the coffee."

"de Meillon was unhappily aware that he had failed in his primary task, which had been to take his party inland and cut the railway to trap the Germans in the town. But he was not one to waste time with regrets. He finished the coffee, took off his boots, got into the warm bed and went to sleep.

It had been a rough landing in which nothing had gone right, and de Meillon and his men were exhausted."

Carl Hoehler

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This is great Chris

Being South African - I'm probably one of the thee interested in this campaign. This is just up my street. You must be telepathic as I had PM'ed Chris about the possible inclusion of this theatre in the GWF.

Thanks again

Rory

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Chris,

This has been of great interest to me as well. Lieutenant R T Matheson, one of those killed at Gibeon Siding on 27 April 1915, was a New Zealander serving with the Natal Mounted Rifles, and he falls into my area of research. The posts here and links you provided earlier have been very helpful to me.

Do you, or does anybody else on this thread know of anyone who has either of these books:

Goetzsche, E. Rough But Ready - an official history of the Natal Mounted Rifles and its antecedent and associated units 1854-1969, (Durban, Interprint Ltd, 1969),

or

Hurst, G. T. History of the Natal Mounted Rifles, (Durban, Publisher unknown, 1935).

The first book is expensive, but the second makes it look dirt cheap. If I could find someone who has them, or either one of them, and who would be prepared to do a lookup, I might just be able to get some more details on Lieut. Matheson and his death.

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Chris, I am no great expert on the African Campaigns, but I do have such as the following. Many more if you find them of ineterst.

MARSHALL Ronald N/E Lt. RNVR 81I018 R.N. Armoured Cars Lt. Nalder, R.N.V.R 30.06.16 G Armoured Car Operations British East Africa January & February 1916 M in D Did brilliant work at attack of Saliate Hill when the armoured cars alone saved the South Africans from being cut up, being under fire from 8.20 to 3.0 p.m., 12th February, 1916.

K.O.K.O Good Hunting, Sadsac

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Glad it was of help to youse :-))

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  • 2 weeks later...

Chris,

Thank you for very interesting information and the best maps I have seen so far.

Of the twenty soldiers on my memorial none died in GSWA - so few actually did - but I have about seven who served there and information on what they did there and where has been very scant. Your maps and information will be a great help. My expereince is that most of the books on GSWA - Gerard L'Ange etc - are very general. There is a rather nice article by Hamish Paterson (I think the name is) on the website of the SA Military History Society.

Kathie

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Hi kathie,

glad to help, the whole point of the site is to help other folks in their research, trying to pay back a bit of the help given to me.

I have much more.... just lack the time to type it up.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Chris

PORTUGUESE & GERMAN CLASHES ON THE ANGOLAN BORDER WITH GSWA

Scanning the Angolan part of the website "Portugal na Grande Guerra" at:

http://www.arqnet.pt/portal/portugal/grand...pgm_angola.html

it describes actions on the border from 1914 onwards.

As Portugal was not "officially" in the war until 1916, this must have been one of the ultimate Forgotten Fronts.

Do you know any English language publication that covers these actions?

Regards

Harry

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Guys

Another source for information on the GSWA capaign is The Project Gutenberg eBook With Botha in the Field by Eric Moore Ritchie at www.gutenberg.net Release Date: May 9, 2005 [eBook #15802] .

This map campaignplan.jpg is one of the files which are part of the eBook.

Carl Hoehler

487931214_b7bf46d491_o.jpg

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Guys

I downloaded a 7-page PDF of casualties from either the GWF or the Australian War Museum and did not record the provenance or URL. The picture is from the Appendices and is page 2 of the 7-page download (page 861 of the original) and this table gives yet another set of casualties for GSWA and this set is very different from the 'official' set given in With Botha in the Field (this extract)

TOTAL UNION CASUALTIES.

</SPAN></SPAN>The official report shows that the total casualties of the operations in South-West Africa in connection with the Union Forces are approximately as follows

Killed in action 88

Died of wounds 25

Wounded in action 263

Wounded and taken prisoners 48

Unwounded prisoners in hands of enemy 612

Total 1,036

Died of disease 97

Died through accidents and by mis-adventure 56

Total 153

The 1914-1915 Rebellion overlapped the GSWA campaign and some of the casualties from the Rebellion might be included in the table below as seems to be the case with the CWGC casualties extracted from their website.

Carl Hoehler489638399_b2b6e634ee_o.jpg

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Chris

If your work on the German SWA campaign includes anything on chaplains, is there any mention of the Rev. Noel Aldridge? He is on the Liverpool Roll of Honour, and a Forum member has sent, on another thread, some info that he earned a Mention in Dispatches as a chaplain, before being invalided out in 1916. He died later that year in the Transvaal.

Daggers

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Hi,

I am in Soutj America at the moment so faaaar from my files... will see when i get home.

Any Idea what unit he was in/attached to? I would guess infantry?

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Chris

Thanks for your reply. I have only "Forces", but agree that infantry is most likely. I hope to hear from you again when you are home.

Daggers

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  • 1 year later...

There's more than three interested in GSWA, and I'm another! My Great-Grandfather, Lt-Col CE Ligertwood MD DSO(bar), was CO of the Imperial Light Horse from 1913-15. I'd only come across the official british history so I'm over the moon with Chris's stuff. Might have e-mailed one or two of you before- terrible with names, sorry!

Amongst fishing for any and all info on the ILH in 1899-1915, I'm also trying to confirm/ deny a story that's ben passed down concerning the men's general feelings towards the Germans (i.e. I could be completely wrong, so don't jump on me too hard if I am!);

At first the Germans where considered almost purely as a military threat to South Africa's borders and a naval one to the British Navy (it was unaccpetable to have a German Port so close to the Cape).

As the advances progressed feelings took a down turn because of the German's 'unsporting' methods, such as poisoning wells and laying mines (in official history). A cracking little article, early in this thread, mentions bombardment (sounds like air rather than artillery?) but that was acceptable, even if remarkable and unnerving.

It was only at the end though that feelings became realy sour. As the campaign had progressed it had become clear that large numbers of the indgineous population, like the Herrero tribe, had disapeared from their traditional lands, but why or how was not known for sure- there had been rumours of atrocities for almost a decade up to 1914 (Germans had a Herreroland medal in 1906). Finally the ILH came to a large German camp and on the walls of one of the largest buildings, mess hall or what-have-you, were a load of murals. Apparently these paintings depicted mutilations and sexual transgresions being performed on the natives by German troops, and they utterly sickened the South Africans. Bearing in mind that these men had yet to witness the full impact of Modern Warfare (GSWA had more incommon with the Boer War than WW1 for the average trooper) the impact is not to be underestimated, the extermination of the Herrero was the precursor to the Nazi's 'Final Solution' and the reasoning behind it was identical, so it must have helped justify the campaign to the men involved?

Anyone ever heard anything similar, corroberative sources on the paintings would be nice. :huh:

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Chris

What a superb site - will say even more when I have got into the detail

Thanx for revealing a lost campaign

Stephen

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  • 3 weeks later...

Could you let me know if the deatils of the solderis who took part are published anywhere.

I am looking for this man

Stephen

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  • 7 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Chris and others

Many thanks for bringing this lost campaign to light again. I've touched on the politics behind it in my study on the campaign in East Africa as you can't understand SA's involvement in EA without understanding GSWA. Info is definitely scarce and so is time. I'm going to have to find some to work through the site and everyone's comments.

Harry, if I recall correctly, Hew Strachan touches on the Angola/GSWA front, but there's not much at all. I don't recall having seen anything in the SA archives (military or political) either, except for concerns that the Germans were going to make contact with GEA across the Caprivi.

Anne

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Chris

PORTUGUESE & GERMAN CLASHES ON THE ANGOLAN BORDER WITH GSWA

As Portugal was not "officially" in the war until 1916, this must have been one of the ultimate Forgotten Fronts.

Do you know any English language publication that covers these actions?

Regards

Harry

Harry, by chance I came across the following whilst working on SA involvement in Angola during the Cold War. It's not much but might give some clues to finding any English publications:

In

The Angolan Revolution: The anatomy of an explosion (1950-1962), Volume 1 by John Marcum The MIT Press, Massachusetts, 1969, Marcum states on p114 "During WW1, German regime in SWA cultivated Cuanhama chiefs and gave them arms to fight against Portuguese (1914-1915)". Unfortunately he didn't reference this. Marcum apparently travelled through Angola a number of times which is what led to him writing his two volumes.

Some other brief searching on the web using this info has identified the following, although I should hasten to add I haven't read it in detail so it might not all be relevant.

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~c...70039354~db=all Order out of Chaos: Mandume Ya Ndemufayo and Oral History, by Patricia Hayes © 1993 in Journal of Southern African Studies

I've also identified a few other books in the British Library Catalogue which might hold info - I'll be going through these for my Cold War project, so if there's anything useful in them re WW1, will add to the post.

Anne

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  • 10 months later...
I have just recorded an account of some action there that appeared in the Holmfirth Express - October 16th 1915. I can use your site to clear up the spellings of some place names and get a little background, so it will be useful to me.

Battle of Gibeon from Light Horse Cavalcade, Harry Klein:

"Faced with this stalemate on the northern front General Botha turned his attention to the south, where Duncan McKenzie's Central force had moved forward to Aus, Nearly 100 miles east of Luderitzbucht.

It was at this time that the three southern forces were combined into two divisions, known as the "Southern Army", under command of General Smuts.

While van Deventer and Berrange respectively cleared the country ahead from Upington and the Molopo river to Keetmanshoop, in desert conditions of indescribable rigour, McKenzie was ordered to strike north-east from Aus to Gibeon, 106 miles north of Keetmanshoop, on the line to Windhoek.

Opposing him was Major Von Kleist, with 800 men and two guns.

It was a tough challenge issued to Duncan McKenzie's division, to march 200 miles across rough and badly watered country, with insufficient supplies to sustain man and horse, and at the end to trap the very able German major and his desert seasoned troops. …

The division, which left Aus in high spirits on April 15th consisted of the 7th Mounted Brigade – 1st and 2nd Natal Carabineers and 12th Battery SA Field Artillery; the 8th mounted brigade – Natal Mounted Brigade and the Umvoti Mounted rifles; and the 9th Mounted Brigade – 2nd Imperial Light Horse and the Natal light horse; the later brigade in all about 1.500 men. The 9th Brigade was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel JR Royston, who had been second-in-command of the 2nd ILH, under Duncan McKenzie in the South African War."

"Marching rapidly, McKenzie reached Beerseba, 150 miles from the starting point, with the 8th and 9th Brigades at dawn on the 22nd, and captured 20 of the enemy, with cattle, sheep, goats and some wagons. At this time Von Kleist was slightly ahead of him along the railway line, making all speed for Gibeon and the north.

During the next day the 8th Brigade clashed with a German rearguard detachment on the Great Fish River. Taking every advantage of the rough, stony ground on which they stood, the enemy did well in holding up their pursuers for some hours and ultimately managed to get away. By the evening of April 24th McKenzie had gathered his whole force together and started north for Gibeon. At Grundorn, two days later, he taped the telephone line and learned that Von Kleist was at Gibeon Station and intended moving further north that night.

Late in the afternoon McKenzie's advanced patrols informed him a train could be seen at Gibeon station, while the dust of three columns moving rapidly north towards the station was also visible.

On Receipt of this information McKenzie immediately ordered Colonel Royston with the whole of the 9th brigade and the Umvoti Rifles to move widely round to the east and come in behind the enemy. Meanwhile a demolition party of 30 men with some scouts was sent ahead to destroy the railway line north of the station and prevent the escape of the train.

Royston was to place himself astride the German line of retreat north of Gibeon and to co-operate with McKenzie in an attack which the latter planned to deliver from the south at dawn.

At 10pm McKenzie, with the remainder of his force, arrived at a point two miles south of Gibeon station, where he halted until 5am on the 27th.

At 11pm the demolition party blew the rails two miles north of the station and after eluding several enemy patrols sent out to intercept them, successfully rejoined the main body.

Royston reached a point on the railway, two and a half miles north of the station, at 1 am on the 27th. The ground was flat and devoid of cover of any kind. The railway line was laid on an embankment, the base of which was protected by a deep storm water ditch.

In the bright moonlight Colonel Royston placed three dismounted squadrons of the natal light Horse on the railway embankment facing west, with a fourth squadron in reserve a short distance away. Two dismounted Squadrons of the 2nd Imperial light horse were extended in support and on the right of the NLH; the Umvoti mounted rifles were dismounted some distance to the east.

By great misfortune, in the excitement of the moment, no one noticed a culvert on the line some 80 yards south of where the South Africans had been deployed.

At about 2am enemy scout appeared along the line from the left or Royston's position and drew fire from the NLH on the embankment. At the same time a party of German machine-gunners and riflemen, who had lodged themselves in the unnoticed culvert, opened a sustained fire. Another group of the enemy, who had meanwhile crawled along the storm water ditch below the embankment, then joined in the fight.

Enfiladed and surprised by the suddenness of the attack, Royston's men took heavy punishment in short time. they fought back resolutely but were in a desperate position.

At 3 am Lieutenant-Colonel Davies, commanding 2nd ILH, who had joined his beleaguered men, ordered the NLH and the ILH to retire. He did this in Colonel Royston's absence and while the latter had gone back to bring up the Umvoti Rifles. On his return Colonel Royston ordered a general retirement. This order, unfortunately, did not reach 72 men of the NLH further along the embankment who were left behind in the confusion. In the morning, completely surrounded, they were forced to surrender.

In the desperate hours fighting the NLH and the ILH lost three officers and 21 other ranks killed and 49 wounded. The ILH losses were three killed and 14 wounded. Following this unexpected setback Colonel Royston withdrew his brigade three miles to the east and waited for daylight, when he moved back to the railway line to co-operate with McKenzie's attack.

Dawn saw the remainder of the division sweeping towards Gibeon station in spirited endeavour. The 1st Natal Carabineers were on the west, the Natal Mounted Rifles in the centre and the 2nd natal Carabineers on the east. All that Royston could do was to send a squadron each of the 2nd ILH and the NLH to assist on the right flank. He had not the strength to close the line of the German retreat to the north.

Faced with the rapid advance of the SouthAfrican horsemen, who were supported by the good shooting from their artillery, Von Kleist fought a stubborn reaegaurd action until 10 am when he fell back in good order to the Mariental road.

By skilful handling of his troops he managed to avoid encirclement and made good his escape over broken country to the north. The horses of the South African mounted men were far too exhausted to keep pace with the fresh German mounts in the pursuit which developed.

Von kleist was forced to abandon his two field guns, together with two machine guns, and the train at the station, which was found to be heavily loaded with explosives and munitions. He left behind on the field 11 dead, 30 wounded, and 188 prisoners. The 72 NLH men who had been captured by the germans earlier in the morning were recovered in the pursuit. The only further casualties experienced by McKenzies division, apart from those lost on the embankment in the predawn engagment, were four killed and eight wounded.

After the Action at Gibeon the Southern Army, with the exception of Brigadier-general Beves' 1st Infantry Brigade – which went north to join general botha – took no further part in the german South West operations."

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Great stuff Chris i must be number 4 with an interest in the theatre .I have a DCM group to a South African who won it in GSWA so very interesting

Thanks MC

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Chris

If your work on the German SWA campaign includes anything on chaplains, is there any mention of the Rev. Noel Aldridge? He is on the Liverpool Roll of Honour, and a Forum member has sent, on another thread, some info that he earned a Mention in Dispatches as a chaplain, before being invalided out in 1916. He died later that year in the Transvaal.

Daggers

Any progress?

Bruce

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